‘White Knuckling’ No Way to Hold on to Sobriety
James W. had five months of sobriety, the “white-knuckle version,” he called it, when he decided to have a drink with his friends during a trip to the Ozarks. He had this covered, he thought. He could have just one.
So he lied to his friends, one of the innumerable lies he’s told to them, his family and himself over the years.
“The doctor said it’s OK if I have a drink every once in a while,” James told his buddies. In truth, his doctors had told him he could never touch alcohol again. “If I drank again, they said, ‘You’re a dead person. Might as well carry a shovel around with you’.”
A Trip to the Hospital
Five months earlier, James had been taken to a hospital after throwing up about eight pints of blood during a vacation in Florida. It was an annual sojourn he made with his friends, but this trip was cut short by James’s illness. He and his buddies made a bee-line to get him back home to St. Louis. “We would pull over at gas stations and I would go behind a dumpster and vomit,” James said. “I would try to hydrate myself because I was so dehydrated, but then just throw up.”
When James arrived in the ER, his eyes and skin were jaundiced with his belly fully distended. The doctors told him he’d probably need a liver transplant and that he needed to stay sober to qualify. He took that seriously…for a while.
“After that, I was sober for about five months, but without a program,” he said. “You’re white-knuckling it. You’re not picking up a drink. But without seeing a professional about underlying issues, I was just a dry drunk. I was grumpier than ever. I just lived to cross off the day on the calendar and be proud of that day.”
In the Ozarks, James’s days as a “dry drunk” came to an end. His pride in maintaining his sobriety was overcome by his desire for one more drink, which became two, then three. His drinking would continue beyond his trip to the mountains and for the next year.
All along, James was receiving regular signals that his doctor’s bleak warning about his alcoholism was not mere melodrama. On multiple occasions, he was experiencing frightful bleeds from bursting veins in his esophagus. It is an often life-threatening condition known as “esophageal varices”, common among people with advanced liver disease. “I probably had four to five trips to the hospital with the same situation,” he said. Yet he kept drinking, despite the bleeding and other complications from his failing liver.
While his body was on the verge of being “totaled” by alcohol, it was a fender-bender that landed James in drug rehab. The accident occurred when there were warrants out for his arrest. He had accumulated five DWIs over the years and was driving on a revoked license. Now in jail, he reached out to his mother for help—the only person left for him to turn to.
Turning Life Around at Drug Rehab
“Here I am, a 43-year-old adult talking to his mom like he’s a teenager. ‘Bail me out of jail, bail me out of jail,’” he said. But this time, his pleas fell on deaf ears. He shared that two other people stepped in to get involved: a woman named Patricia Meyers, the Executive Director of Alumni and Client Services at Promises Treatment Centers, and an interventionist.
“They told my mom not to bail me out of jail until I had a ticket to rehab,” James said. And she didn’t. The judge then told him that he needed to go to treatment for a month or face incarceration.
“Those were the circumstances that got me kicking and screaming the whole way to Promises, completely unwilling, oblivious to how close I was to death.”
Today, James is now almost 18 months sober. He spent a full 60 days at Promises and then seven months in sober living. He says he was able to gain and maintain his sobriety “by surrendering, by just giving in to the program and deciding that this is what you need to do.” In short, just “following the principles.”
“I also learned that there are people who have worse stories than mine and there are people with the same story as me. We can all lean on each other. You’re not alone.”
By the time James began his stay at Promises, his mother was at her wit’s end. (He had lost the support of his wife years earlier. She divorced him in 2009.) When he had moved in with her after the divorce, he took up drinking from airplane liquor bottles in an effort to convince himself that he wasn’t really drinking that much. “Alcoholics are experts at fooling themselves and others—or at least they think they are”, he said. James would sneak out of the house, go out to his car, and drink from the little bottles he’d stashed there.
“I’d drink like three of them and smoke a cigarette and come back in,” he said. “Then I’d go to the bathroom and use mouthwash and wash my hands. That was a pattern. I would rationalize it that they were just little airplane shots. They’re just little shots. It’s not a big bottle. It’s not a fifth of a bottle.”
“You get so far off from reality,” he said. “You justify anything. I have lied to my mother, cheated her, manipulated every angle. I was so sick.” She just couldn’t take anymore and sent him a letter that knocked him back on his heels.
“James, I cannot talk to you,” his mother wrote to him in jail. “I am done. I buried my brother because he had cancer. I buried my sister because she had cancer. I buried my mother and father due to old age, and I can’t bear to bury my son. I can’t talk to you now.”
A Return to Health
After his two months at Promises, James wasn’t big on the idea of sober living. He didn’t need it, or so he told the staff. But it was his mother, now back in his life, who was able to persuade him to see the situation otherwise.
“What is six months out of your life?” she asked he. “It’s a drop in the bucket. And it will give you an advantage.”
James remembers that he was “very angry”. But he did it and he’s never doubted that decision. In fact, he’s now working part-time at a sober living facility. His health has improved dramatically. His liver that used to function at 35% during his hospitalization is now functioning at about 93%. He works out three times a week and has lost 40 pounds.
‘I have a life again,” James says. “I’ve been focused on my program so much and multiple commitments and multiple meetings. And I can’t tell you how priceless the Promises Alumni Association is to me and going up to visit Promises Malibu. I probably speak there on a panel once a month and every Wednesday, I’m at the alumni meeting. I volunteer a ton of time. My life has purpose again.”
But perhaps the biggest plus in James’s new life is that he’s regained people’s trust. It wasn’t that long ago when his best friend had a “tough conversation” with him, telling James that he was no longer comfortable with him being the godparent of his children. “Then on my last visit home, he just had one look at me and listened to how I spoke and he told me I could be a godparent again to his children. The pieces of the puzzle have all yet to be put in place, but every day, things are just working out.”
I wound up at Sundance’s cocaine and alcohol addiction center because my cocaine and vodka binge led to me making a major error on my company’s financial report – the third such error in less than two months. As a result my boss, who knew I had a problem with substance abuse addiction, ordered me into treatment – but not before presenting me with a pre-resignation letter that would be placed in my file and removed upon successful completion of treatment at The Sundance Center in Scottsdale, AZ.
When I entered Sundance’s cocaine and alcohol addiction recovery center, I immediately felt at home through the friendly team of counselors who greeted me. An assigned counselor at Sundance’s cocaine and alcohol addiction center took me through an extensive intake interview during which they asked me questions about my addiction life and the path I took to get in their Scottsdale-based cocaine and alcohol addiction center.
Elaine balked at the idea of checking into The Sundance’s drug and alcohol addiction center because she was uncertain about the level of her addiction and being away from her family for 28 days. Her mindset was filled with stereotypes about drug and alcohol addiction treatment centers. She had been conditioned into believing that rehabs were negative, rundown places. But when she finally gave in and checked into The Sundance’s drug and alcohol addiction center, her perception changed.
She entered a drug and alcohol addiction treatment center that operated on a pristine landscape surrounded by the beauty of nature. Elaine was enticed by the atmosphere at The Sundance’s drug and alcohol addiction center. “I didn’t know that a drug rehab could even look like The Sundance Center,” she said. “Everything about The Sundance Center suggested that I was in a spiritual environment that promotes healing. The counselors and treatment team at The Sundance’s drug and alcohol addiction center were there for me every step of the way. They made me feel at home right away.”
One Alum’s Story of Learning to Live a Healthy Life
Suzanne started using substances at the age of 12. That’s not the saddest chapter of her story.
By the time she had reached her 20’s, she was drinking alcohol and abusing cocaine and had been in and out of several drug treatment facilities. Again, it gets worse.
When Suzanne (an alias) left the first facility, she had a husband. A year later she also had a son. Of course, she also had a drug problem, and two years after the birth of her child she was in the hospital again … a mental hospital … in a straight jacket … in the formative stages of a breakdown that had her alternately wishing for another hit or death. Either choice was fine with her.
Inside a large circle at The Sundance Center, a 24-inch Australian crystal-singing bowl sits atop a cream-colored 6-inch rubber O-ring. Sitting next to the bowl with a 6-inch suede mallet in his hand is a substance abuse instructor who is about to begin a healing session with one of his clients – a newly enrolled crystal meth addict still coming down from using the drug less than 24 hours ago. The paranoid meth addict knows he wants to get clean, but he has trouble staying focused with a racing mind and hyperactivity. As the lights are dimmed and the guests closes his eyes with his arms out-stretched, the instructor brings the crystal bowl alive by gently stroking it with the mallet.
How Promises Austin Helped Turn an Addiction into a Vibrant Recovery
Many of Promises Austin’s guests are referred to the holistic alcohol and drug treatment center by professionals in the medical, therapeutic, addiction/recovery, and legal fields. These professionals take great care in selecting treatment facilities for their patients/clients. After all, lives – not just reputations – are on the line. In order to best serve the needs of these referents, Promises Austin taps the expertise of qualified therapists, interventionists, and other healthcare professionals to create a smooth, unique path to treatment.
The Promises Austin “experience” is just that. It lasts 35 to 60 days, and the center’s staff adapts a specialized treatment episode for each guest. The treatment plan begins with an assessment of the guest’s individual situation, including helping him/her determine what led to the choices he/she made previously.